Late last week, eleven citizens groups filed a Sixty Day Notice of Intent to Sue NedPower Mt. Storm and its corporate owners Dominion Resources, and Shell Wind Energy for violations of the Endangered Species Act involving the “takes” of the West Virginia northern flying squirrel, the Indiana bat, and the Virginia big-eared bat.
The letter, sent to the Fish and Wildlife Service, NedPower and the West Virginia Public Service Commission, also raises concerns about impacts to bald and golden eagles and migrating birds protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Acts.
The groups are demanding that the industrial wind corporation apply for an incidental take permit and modify or stop construction of this project before irreparable harm is done to West Virginia’s natural heritage.
“NedPower has ignored the huge number of birds and bats that will be killed each year by the project, ignored the golden eagles that will be decapitated as they try to return to their winter homes near Mt. Storm Lake, and ignored threats to bald eagles that catch fish at the Lake,” said Judy Rodd of Friends of Blackwater. “NedPower is clearing acres of land in endangered flying squirrel habitat just a few miles north of the Dolly Sods Wilderness area. We believe that this project is in violation of federal law.”
Friends of Blackwater, Friends of the Allegheny Front, Friends of the Appalachian Highlands, Friends of Backbone Mountain, Friends of Beautiful Pendleton County, Highlanders for Responsible Development, Laurel Mountain Preservation Association, the Maryland Alliance for Greenway Improvement and Conservation, the Maryland Conservation Council, Mountain Communities for Responsible Energy, and Stewards of the Potomac Highlands are challenging Ned power’s claim that the project will have no impact on these rare species.
They point out that researchers estimate that 4,000 bats were killed in one year at the Mountaineer Wind Project less than 14 miles away. That project operates 44 turbines while NedPower in Grant County is certified to build 200 turbines that could kill more than 20,000 bats annually.
The Notice letter explains that this past winter 10,000 bats were killed in the eastern United States by a mysterious new disease called ‘white nose syndrome’ and that the disease may be present in West Virginia. The Fish and Wildlife Service has warned that white nose could cause mass bat extinctions. Dr. Thomas Kunz, bat expert from Boston University, has raised the alarm over the double threat to bats from industrial wind turbines and the new bat disease in the national media.(see NPR Talk of the Nation 4/18/08). Dr. Kunz concludes that the NedPower project “is quite likely to result in the “take” of … bats from one or both of these endangered species.” His support letter is attached to the notice letter.
In addition to “takes” of endangered bats, the groups raised concerns that the NedPower project has already damaged the habitat of the West Virginia northern flying squirrel. A scientific analysis of the impacts of the project, written by WVU Professor Emeritus Robert Leo Smith, and also attached to the notice letter, states that the young of these endangered squirrels could be killed as land is cleared for roads, power lines and turbine pads.
The NedPower Mount Storm industrial wind project is being built along the Allegheny Front, east of Mt Storm Lake and stretching fourteen miles from Mt. Pisgah to just north of Bear Rocks at Dolly Sods. Landowners near the project have filed a nuisance suit against NedPower, citing concerns about health and safety, reduced property values and enjoyment of their property. They are represented by Richard Neely.
The firm of Meyers Glitzenstein and Crystal is representing the citizen groups who filed the Sixty Day Notice of Intent to Sue. They are asking for a formal Habitat Conservation Plan so that impacts to endangered species can be properly evaluated and changes made to the project in order for NedPower to avoid litigation.
11 May 2008
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